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Sharing Pack Loads

Howdy all,

I'm in the planning stage of a 4-5 day trip into the Pecos Wilderness with 3 other guys. We are all similar strength, but varying experience levels. I have done several two-man backpacking trips, but this is my first to go as a 4-man team.

Here's my question: how do y'all typically divide the pack loads among multiple members? Does (1) each man share an equal weight of food, tent pieces, fuel, gear, etc? Or, (2) does one man carry food, another the tents, another the fuel and gear, etc.

I can assume it's the first one, but I'm curious to hear the opinions of one method verses the other. Like I said, this is not my first backpacking trip, but this is the first time to go with more than one other guy.

Glad to be here, looking forward to getting to know the members on this board.


Welcome to TS!

I use (1) while paying attention to specific pack volumes and adjusting as needed.

I generally keep food and fuel split up, though, so each person can snack/eat as needed...also reduces "Dude, you spilled all our fuel on all our food!" arguments...

Hi Grayson.  Welcome!!

I have done trips where multiple people carry "community" loads to help minimize weight and bulk.  I have also done trips with multiple people where I am selfish and just worry about myself and tell others they need to do the same.  The reason for that is because I am not always comfortable with relying on others to bring what I would need.  It really stinks when someone in the group forgets something important that affects the whole group.  

Some of the community things you can look at to minimize weight and bulk are cooking systems, cooking pots and pans and larger tents broken up into segments.  Other than that I am not sure what community items you would have.  I am sure others will chime in on their experiences with that.

My biggest bit of advice I can give on doing "community" loads is communication.  You guys have to make a list and clearly divvy out who carries what.  I don't have a good answer to your questions (1) or (2) because that is so subjective to your group.  You guys need to talk about it and figure out the best way for your group.  I would say (1) is probably more common but (2) is convenient if you want 1 guy to do all the food shopping for the group.  

Get together, communicate and make a detailed list and then physically check that list before venturing out on your trip.  

Good luck and have fun.  

I never, ever share gear or distribute loads among others, except perhaps unnecessary luxury items like fishing gear.


I have learned the hard way - You had better be self sufficient!


Now on the other had - When backpacking with my wife ( which we do together a great deal ) we share loads with a vengeance.

We each carry our own rain gear and any supplemental clothing.

I carry the shelter, the cook kit, all the food and our repair / first aid kit.

She carries all the bedding, our dopp kit, journal and sometimes even a cell phone these days.  

When traveling with my wife my base load is below eleven pounds and includes a comfy three person tent and an elaborate Trangia 25 cooking setup.

My wife will have a base load about 16 pounds because she uses a heavier backpack and our sleep system is home made, weighs 8 pounds and is very comfy!

On our last three night/four day trip I started with a total weight of 26 pounds which included three quarts water, and my wife started with a total of twenty pounds with two quarts water. 

To me, this is pretty durn light while still "having it all"

I can't usually get quite this light going solo and not sharing gear -

But I still don't recommend sharing gear unless yer married to yer partner!


Man, I could tell ya horror stories about sharing tents and the like...

On trips without my wife I'm going "Solo" and it is a chance for me to try out my hand at UL solo tactics and other fun stuff. 

Who can pack the lightest and still surprise everyone by pulling something most unexpected out of yer pack at some point.

Typically I'll use a home made polycro tarp, no flashlight but a Photon, minimal first aid kit, half a Wal-Mart foam sleeping pad and such like to save as much weight as possible, yet hide something really good to eat deep within my pack and share that late in the trip, like perhaps fresh fruit or steaks.    





If you don't know the answer yet, find out from significant others if anybody in your posse snore at night. This alone has ruined a trip for me while sharing gear, like a shelter. 

That is a great point Sean.  I have 2 backing partners who snore real bad.  I will not share a tent with them and I will put my tent as far away from them as possible.  

Snoring partners?  Bring ear plugs.  Works like a charm.

As for gear sharing, I bring to the embarking point everything I would need if I were solo.  That way if a team member forgets a tent or stove, I am not put out.  I try to coordinate group gear options whenever possible though; who wants to carry redundant (excess) weight?  I always bring my own ground cloth.  But I usually sleep under the stars.   My tent mate gets the advantage of having a tent to themselves most of the time, and I get access to a rain shelter at half the weight I'd otherwise need to carry.

As for food sharing, I insist food gets split in such a way that everyone has at least one breakfast, lunch dinner.  There have been times when the group did not all rendezvous at the designated location, forcing some to make do with whatever they had in their pack until reuniting.  Trail snacks for dinner - or no food at all - is a less than optimal arrangement in that circumstance.  So food is definitely split up among the group.  We also carry at least two stoves, in case one craps out, but also because group cooking goes faster with multiple pots working simultaneously.  Kitchen pots are also divided up for the same reason as splitting food.  Tent gear is split for weight sharing, but if your tent mate fails to make camp it means both of you may be put out if it rains.  Lesson: stay with your tent mate on the trail!

Sharing gear loads can avail opportunities to bring things not otherwise considered.  Get someone to carry your share of tent weight and you can bring a rain/shade fly for the group.  Some of the best times I had camping were enjoying the company of my companions under such a fly in conditions that otherwise would have been spent alone, pent up in our respective dinky tents.

Advance gear sharing considerations will also covers standardization of sundry items.  Use equipment that have the same supply specifications when possible, such as flashlights using the same size batteries, stoves using the same fuel system, water filters with identical thread and cartridges, etc.  Sharing certain resources require additional considerations.  For example, if there is a group first aid kit, it should always be carried by the last person on the trail.  If someone drops behind the person with the med kit, the person with the kit either stays with the last person, else hands the kit to the new tail end Charlie.  That said there are compelling arguments why the med kit should stay with the same person, and that tail end Charlie is always accompanied by another member of the team.  But I digress. 

Lastly I suggest sharing community gear consider the individual capabilities of the group members.  Weight sharing based on equal division of weight is simple, but not smart or even fair if the group is co-ed or otherwise has wise disparity in fitness and stature among individuals.  Keep in mind you are actually sharing the miseries of being a beast of burden, not the loads per se.



I usually split the tent and poles/stakes when I can.  I usually let everyone carry their own food/cooking stuff. 

When its my kids and I the older ones carry the food and I get the rest of the shared gear so they can hike lighter on the tiring hike out.

I know a lot of people who aren't afraid to admit which is the stronger hiker and let that one carry more stuff.  I guess it really depends on the personalities of the team.

"Snoring partners?  Bring ear plugs.  Works like a charm."

Only if you like sleeping with plugs in yer ears. I shared a tent with a guy that snored on a two week trip and it drove me berserk! I was suffering from some real loss of sleep there for a while.

The guy slept on my couch one night at my home some time before the trip and it was no big deal. Gearing up for the trip I insisted the two of us take but one tent and one stove to save weight. 

He took his own stove anyway. It rained every day but two, and to those two days I slept outside.  

I ain't never sharing a tent again with anyone but my wife. Period. Y'all are on yer own. :)

Garyson, how well do you know these folks?

How many times have ye packed with them before?

Unless they are like brothers to you, just carry yer own swag.


I normally dont like to share gear unless its with someone I know very well. And before a trip we always do a gear check before we leave to ensure all required gear is present. things typically shared are a whitegas stove in winter, water filters, snow melting pots etc.

What i wont / dont like to share is a shelter. I am content by myself with my hammock!

I typically bring all of my own gear, and if we are plannin to share something i will always bring a lightweight backup option. Example: if sharing a water filter, i will bring my steripen as a backup option since its small and light.

I will repeat a tale here that I have posted on TS a few times before. It is a true incident, not embellished, but with some details omitted intentionally -

I had a group of scouts training for a Philmont expedition. We went to a beautiful part of the Sierra for a 3 day/2 night training hike. Gear was split up - tent partners shared tent parts, stoves and cook gear were split among the group, and food split so that everyone had some breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners, not that anyone would get lost or separated. When you are responsible for someone else's son, you keep the group together and follow the "buddy system".

On our second day, we stopped at a beautiful lake to replenish our water supply and eat lunch. A man walked up to us as we were pumping water (this was pre-gravity filter days). He asked if it was safe to drink the water straight from the stream, which led to a discussion about how long giardia takes to show up. As the conversation continued, it turned out that this fellow had been with a group and gotten separated (missed a trail junction) 3 days before. His entire supplies of food were 2 cans of Coke and a couple of candy bars. He had no map or compass (and didn't know how to use them anyway). He did know that his companions were supposed to be going to Spanish Lake. As it happened, that was our destination for the 2nd night, so we let him follow us. When we got to the lake, we found his companions, who told me they were thinking about contacting the rangers - remember, this was 3 days since they had last seen him. 

You can draw whatever moral of the story you want (and I expect the usual passel of strong opinions to appear here). The simple basic facts were that this man got separated in an unfamiliar area and little backpacking experience, no map or compass or navigation skills and no food, water, or way to treat the water. IIRC, he also did not have matches to start a fire, although he did have a sleeping bag (summer Sierra rarely calls for a tent).

There is a sequel to the incident, but it is not relevant to the question of if or how to divide your gear and supplies for a backpacking trip.

For expeditions such as I go on every year, where we are doing scientific research and have a lot of research gear to haul in and out, there is no choice but to use burros, porters, and full-time cooks. Because we will be separated during the day into different areas (sometimes for 2 or 3 days at a time), everyone must carry a supply of food and at least bivy gear, plus communications gear.

May sound mean but I trust NOBODY. When I go out

I bring everything I need for the trip. I will gladly share and help with gear carry but I leave nothing to chance. I learned early..No Food or Tent.. Sucks!!

Help carry Poles,Stakes,Food but NEVER let the group divide up and go in differnt directions..too meet up later..ALWAYS a chance for problems..


Wow, excellent responses! This is a great board to be on.

I agree with the general mentality of making sure every man has enough in his pack to be self sufficient if anything were to happen. That was the approach I was leaning toward, but I thought it would be interesting to hear any other ideas.

Bill, that is a bizarrely frightening story. He's lucky he came across an experienced team, or it could have ended much worse..

EtdBob, to answer your question. I know these guys very well, they're all some combination of roommate, classmate, or climbing partner. I expect communication to be good and everyone to tow the line.

Our collective gear is somewhat limited, so we will have at least share two UL tents and probably one cookset unless I can get my hands on another (bummer, I know). I might have us pack like two teams of two, so that one of us is responsible for one other person instead of three. It seems like the daily pack up would be quicker that way too. 

buy the grease pot from walmart. its a cheap, lightweight option for a 1 person pot/mug. Think they run around $2. Will help with sharing the other cookset for everything

When I go with my wife, which is about 90% of the time, we each carry our own clothers, sleeping bag and pad, and entertainment.  I carry the tent and food, she carries the stove and cook kit, and FAK.  We each carry water.

I end up with about 25% more weight than her...and that's about how much more I weigh.  I am still usually ahead of her on the trail.  So as the food begins to disappear I'll add a fuel canister inside the bear can to share some of the weight loss with her...

When our daughter comes along, She takes the 3 man tent and her clothes and sleeping stuff.  I just carry the food, and my wife carries her usual load.  That's a good system when you know each other very well and plan to stay together. 


We don't backpack with larger groups...but when we go with people we don't know so well we take our own stuff as usual, and let them carry their full complement of gear.  It doesn't hurt to have an extra stove or FAK, which is about all that is duplicated. 

September 28, 2020
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